This summer’s story of how Charlie Gard’s parents failed in their fight to have Charlie treated for his illness, and the consequence of Charlie’s death, was a true tragedy. It has brought the issue of parental rights back into the headlines and conversations. For many, hearing how the Gard’s were prohibited from removing their son from the hospital in order to seek treatment elsewhere might have been a bizarre freak incident with very little relevance to American parents. But the fact is that denying parents the right to determine the upbringing and care of their children is happening with increasing frequency right here in the United States.
For many centuries the western tradition and common law held that it was parents’ right and obligation to raise their children in the manner they deemed most fitting. Back in 1925 the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Pierce v. Society of Sisters 268 U.S. 510 parents have a fundamental constitutional right to direct the upbringing and education of their children. Mr. Justice McReynolds included these words: “The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” The Court continued this line of reasoning as recently as 1972 with the pronouncement that the “primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition.” Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205. This long-established and culturally ingrained view is now being challenged at every turn.
In 2005, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in its Fields v. Palmdale decision, “affirm[ed] that the Meyer-Pierce right [that is, your fundamental parental right] does not extend beyond the threshold of the school door.” 427 F.3d 1197 (2005) This ruling essentially means that parents have lost control of their student’s upbringing the moment they walk onto a school campus. One example of how this played out was in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, where 7th and 8th grade students were given surveys asking overtly intimate and sexually suggestive questions without their parents’ knowledge or consent. This is also why colleges deny parents access to their students’ grades and club associations while simultaneously demanding them to pay tuition. The Clark County School Board in Las Vegas is ignoring parents’ concerns and pushing forward with the possibility of including lessons on gender identity, sexual orientation in the district’s sex ed curriculum for middle and high school students, according to the Las Vegas Sun on Sept. 15, 2015.
Outside the school environment, parents are faring no better. A woman in Port St. Lucie, Florida, was arrested for allowing her 7 year old son to walk to the neighborhood playground a half mile from his home, even though the boy routinely rode his bicycle to school several miles away. The California legislature has passed a bill permitting girls as young as 12 to consent to medical treatment for the prevention of STDs without their parents’ knowledge or consent.
Areas in which the government and courts are undermining the right of parents to control the upbringing of their children include:
Removing children from their homes without sufficient cause,
Intimidating and threatening parents with the loss of their children if they don’t cooperate with government mandates,
Providing medical treatment or access to prescription medication (such as abortions, vaccinations and contraception) without parental knowledge or consent,
Interrogating children (in public schools or public places) without parental knowledge or consent,
Providing information or access to inappropriate information that parents have explicitly forbidden their children from accessing,
Creating different standards retaining custody of children based upon economic status, and
Removing the children of disabled parents without sufficient cause.
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Through law and policy, the government is slowly, yet relentlessly, establishing a new tradition that views government—not parents—as the ultimate authority in determining what is in the best interests of children. There is widespread confusion between what constitutes a parent’s responsibility versus the right of the government (state or national) to interfere with or supersede in that responsibility. This climate of confusion demands an overarching, protective guideline to support parents in the upbringing of their children without undue government interference.
Parents who are concerned about the movement of government to usurp authority from good parents in the upbringing of their children should also be aware of another threat: the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. If ratified by the US government, it will supersede all national and state laws regarding the upbringing of children in the United States. According to information provided by UNICEF, this Convention applies to those under 18 and provides them the right to:
get and share information (including from the internet, social media, printed materials, TV, radio, etc.)
think, believe and practice what they want, especially with respect to religion
free association, meaning the ability to choose their own friends, clubs, and other social groups
privacy (including protection from attacks to their way of life, their reputation, etc.)
access to information from mass media in a format that is understandable to children (whatever mass media provides to adults should be produced in a format that is understandable to children)
protection from discipline involving violence (including spanking)
health care, clean drinking water, nutritious food, and information to keep them healthy in a format they can understand.
be informed of their rights in a manner they can understand.
Although this list may not seem troublesome at first glance, it’s important to remember that it will become the responsibility of the federal governments to define and enforce these rights, not parents. Therefore, the federal government will determine what information is provided to children in schools (whether public, private or parochial). The government will ensure children can practice the religion of their choice, choose their own friends without parental involvement, and access internet sites and magazines of their choice without parental limitations. It is the government who will determine what constitutes “nutritious food”, etc. And it will be government who will be removing children from parents and prosecuting those parents who are deemed to have violated these rights.
These are the many reasons why the Parental Rights Amendment movement began. Creating an amendment to the United States Constitution would prohibit the state and federal government from chipping away at the rights of good parents to maintain control of their children, irrespective of their religious, economic or disability status. The Parental Rights Amendment would guarantee that the right of parents to control the upbringing, education, and care of their children be equal in every state. And an amendment to the Constitution would be the only protection against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Yet, the proposed Amendment would in no way interfere with the current national and federal laws that protect children against abuse and neglect.
If you find this information alarming there are several things you can do:
Support The Center for Garden State Families financially as we work to build support for this constitutional amendment. You can donate to The Center For Garden State Families.
Contact your federal and state representatives and make them aware of your concerns and preferences regarding parental rights
Share this information with your relatives, friends and associates, and encourage them to take action
Visit parentalrights.org for more information on how you can move the constitutional amendment to ratification
Get involved in your local school board and become familiar with the information that is being disseminated to students that goes beyond academics